On Building Worlds
On Building Worlds
When Ruby, the director of What The F@#$!, taught me the term “world-building,” something suddenly clicked. Though its title previously eluded me, it had always been one of my favorite aspects of improv. Imagine: establishing enough platform and context to allow an audience to suspend its disbelief and fully support your brief, brief world. In many ways, improv is all about control, and world-building showcases this by causing audiences to accept and relish in fleeting, false realities. Let’s take a moment to bow down to improv, guys. I mean, isn’t that what improvisers do after every show, anyway?
Working with narrative, world-building was a skill that I and the rest of the What The F@#$! Cast sought to finesse. We used scene-painting to evoke shared understanding, established platform to invoke empathetic relationships, and played obviously to convoke a society of rules and order within our little one-hour worlds which would extinguish with each blackout like a sigh or a dream.
Yet, even out of rehearsals, I couldn’t get world-building out of my mind. As a designer, writer, and traveler, I am constantly in awe of its power of experience. And there’s a fourth-wall wink here, a meta-narrative: I realized that I, as a recent Austin transplant who moved here alone from college in the Northeast to pursue a job, who left friends and roots behind, had much of a world to build myself.
Maybe it started with scene-painting. Within the Hideout, within WTF, I painted myself to others. I colored in 22 years of existence of which my new acquaintances had not the opportunity to observe. I filled them in, and they I, within the lines, with bright hues, boldly. We accepted these backstories. There was trust.
And it caused us to build platform, manifested as Whiskey Wednesdays, as hangouts, as yoga, as “real talk.” Inside jokes and Sardines. A lot of laughing. Much like we do as characters when the lights come up, we fostered empathetic relationships we could call our own, something meaningful.
Eventually, this led to creating our own order and rules within our microcosm of such a welcoming improv community, established by spells as obvious as: “You’re my friend,” “I miss you,” or “I love you guys.” We cast an invisible structure.
After our fourth sold-out show, at a group sleepover that concluded our run save a bonus performance, I suddenly grasped our world-building and realized that we had truly done it successfully. We did something in real life by doing something improvisers strive to do on-stage: create a world so truthful that it exists outside of the players, living on so believably in the minds of the audience that they can’t help but laugh or cry or be fascinated. At the end of our run, the casters fell off, the mold was removed, yet something still remained. We built a world that transcended a three-month experience such that it could exist past rehearsals and Hideout doors. We pushed beyond the form that gave us this gift in the first place and are left with something that is not made up. A truth. A reward. Our world.
What the F@$# runs every Saturday at 6pm in February, and the first weekend of March. Get tickets here.